Legacy of child abuse led Martin to kill thief

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tony Martin, the farmer who shot dead a teenage burglar at his remote farmhouse, had a paranoid personality disorder because of childhood sexual abuse, the Court of Appeal was told yesterday.

On the opening day of his appeal against conviction for murder, Martin's lawyers said the disorder made him see the burglary as a "violation'' of the home he felt was a safe haven from a hostile world. It affected his judgement and meant he was likely to react more extremely than a normal person.

Martin was deprived of a fair trial by "important failings" on the part of his legal team and there was "compelling" evidence to show that the farmer acted in self-defence and under provocation, the lawyers said.

Most of the time, the 56-year-old sat silent and motionless in the dock dressed in a dark suit and tie, but at one point he turned to his guard and shook his head as evidence was given about his "squalid and bizarre" home being booby-trapped. The farmer has always insisted he acted in self-defence when he shot Fred Barrass, 16, with a pump-action shotgun at Bleak House near Emneth, Norfolk in 1999. He was jailed for life at Norwich Crown Court 18 months ago and given 10 years for wounding Barrass's accomplice, Brendon Fearon, 30, in the leg.

Yesterday Michael Wolkind, QC, who heads Martin's new legal team, said the legacy of childhood abuse was depression and a paranoid personality disorder that impaired his judgement and willpower on the night of the burglary. "In particular, the paranoid disorder meant he is more likely to have felt his life was in danger than the average person,'' he said.

Dr Philip Joseph, a consultant forensic psychiatrist at St Marty's Hospital in Paddington, said Martin had "a lifelong fear of being molested'' that left him unable to form intimate relationships. "It is significant in determining how Mr Martin relates to other people in his adulthood and perhaps explains his unusual way of sleeping on top of the bed with his clothes and boots on. If that is not considered, the full picture of Mr Martin cannot be formed.''

Dr Joseph said Martin's house was in an "extra-ordinary'' state that was testimony to his disturbed mind. Rubbish and unfinished DIY projects filled the downstairs, and his bedroom was packed with teddy bears he started buying for himself after he bought one for a friend's child at Christmas but did not give, fearing people would think he had perverted motives. Martin repeatedly told Dr Joseph he felt "violated'' about the break-in. "The word violated has a sexual connotation. He kept saying anything could have happened. I said to him, 'If you were a woman what could have happened to you'. He said he could have been raped.''

Jackie Craissati, head of forensic and clinical psychiatric services at Oxleas NHS Trust in south London, said Martin scored maximum points in a clinical test for depressive personality disorder traits. He perceived the world as "persecutory and hostile'' and she said he had an "intense emotional response'' to the first burglary in 1999. The depression and paranoid disorder could have grown in the months before the later, fatal, break-in, she said. "The two pictures together could have a powerful impact on his capacity to manage such a highly charged situation. It would substantially impair his judgement.''

Rosamund Horwood-Smart QC, for the prosecution, told the court the abuse by a distant relative was "not the most serious" and there was no history of abuse other than an attempted assault.

James MacKeith, a consultant psychiatrist, said the abuse and a beating by Martin's prep school headteacher could not have caused any later personality disorder.

There was no evidence of mental illness in the weeks before Barrass's murder, he said. Mr MacKeith said he suspected Martin of lying during interviews when he said he did not remember making threats about what he would do to burglars.

The appeal resumes today.